A senior lawyer and two police officers have died after gunfire erupted in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir on Saturday.
President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, Tahir Elci, and two police officers were killed in the incident, which happened in the province’s central Sur district before midday.
According to Turkish security sources, Elci had been making a statement to the media about the historic Dort Ayakli Minare mosque, damaged by the PKK in October.
At about 11.00 a.m. (0900 GMT) police officers stopped a taxi about 100 meters from where Elci had been holding a press conference.
The passengers inside the car opened fire, killing one police officer on the spot and injuring two others, one of which succumbed to his injuries later the day at the hospital.
Shortly after the attack on police officers, one of the assailants ran toward a back street where Elci had just held a press conference, police said.
A new clash erupted, in which Elci died and an AA reporter was injured.
Diyarbakir Governor's office issued a statement saying "security forces came under attack during a press conference by the Diyarbakir Bar Association at around 11:00 am [0900GMT]," adding that an investigation has been launched into the incident.
Security sources said that one of the assailants is suspected to be a member of the PKK terror organization, which had injured three policemen Friday night in the Diyarbakir’s Baglar district.
Police forces arrested on Saturday the driver of the taxi from which the assailants attacked the police officers.
The governorship also declared a curfew in Sur district, which is applicable to six neighborhoods and one street as of 1.00 p.m. [1100GMT]. The curfew will be in place until further notice, it said.
Security sources said that two terrorists were killed during the operations that took place in the region after the terror attack.
Two possible scenarios
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters at the Turkish parliament in Ankara that two possible scenarios were being looked into in relation to the killing of Elci on Saturday.
The first possibility, he said, was that, the attack was an “assassination attempt against Tahir Elci”. Davutoglu said another scenario involved Elci being caught in crossfire.
“If there is such a thing, it will be revealed as a result of ballistic examination, and will certainly be shared with the public in a transparent manner,” Davutoglu said.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the target was not just Elci, but Turkey itself, and vowed to find the perpetrators of the attack.
"This incident will definitely be clarified. We do not let crimes go unsolved," he said, warning against speculation claiming there would be a cover-up.
"However, if some people try to create chaos over this incident, we will not be indifferent," he added.
Davutoglu also called Elci’s wife, Turkan Elci, to express his condolences for the loss of her husband, said Prime Ministry sources.
Interior Minister Efkan Ala said four chief inspectors were commissioned to investigate the attack, which he said "targeted national unity and integrity".
The preliminary autopsy report said that Tahir Elci died “from a single long distance shot".
Separately, four policemen were injured later on Saturday as terrorists attacked security forces as a team headed by the Diyarbakir chief public prosecutor was on his way to Sur District to investigate the killing of the president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, the Interior Ministry said.
Diyarbakir Chief Public Prosecutor Ramazan Solmaz, his deputy Gurkan Kutuk as well as representatives of Diyarbakir Bar Association arrived at the district’s Balikcilarbasi neighborhood as terrorists were exchanging fire with security forces.
Solmaz told Anadolu Agency that the attack was not directed against them.
The two injured policemen were rushed to the hospital.
AA reporter injured in left hand
The injured Anadolu Agency reporter, Aziz Aslan, said the Elci’s press conference had just ended when he found himself in the middle of clash in Sur district’s Yenikapi Street.
“My left hand was hit by a bullet I do not know where it came from,” he said.
Aslan said he managed to enter in a cafe for about an hour as clashes were going on outside. Once the situation calmed down, an ambulance took him to the hospital where he received treatment. He was discharged later on Saturday.